A Sister’s Birthday Wish

I am not a mother. I am a sister. But my birthday wish for my sister is the wish every mother has for her daughter—or the wish every father has for his son: a better world for her to live in. One that is just, fair, peaceful and full of life. I didn’t know the words sustainable societies five years ago. I didn’t use the word livable back then.

I lamented the apathy of my generation back then. I felt that the youth had been sleeping—or that we have been sedated. When I talked to people my age about issues that I think mattered, they say that is how things are. That it is sad but it is reality. And I used to be hurt. When I talked about injustices, big and small—or is there even such a scale—I could hardly find anyone who felt strongly about them. Some called me idealistic. Others, aggressive.

The journey that my sister is going through is the same journey that I have gone through—except she’s been more courageous.

I want a better world so she doesn’t have to want to take it to the streets anymore. That she may again write songs other than about the struggles of our time. Many of us say it doesn’t work anymore. That we have grown tired of it not being able to make a dent to the system that we’ve been trying to change. And so we learned to create things. Better things—despite of and in spite of businesses, of governments, of a zombified nation. But some of these better things include hundreds of activists taking it to the Arctic to stop Shell’s oil drilling. It includes thousands of protesters occupying Wall Street in the United States so we wake up to the evils of the banking institutions.

In the Philippines, better things include the EDSA Revolution, the fall of Estrada—and of Arroyo—the anti-pork barrel march, the climate pilgrimage, the Lakbayan ng Lumad, and many other protests that took different forms, that had been called different names like prayer rallies or vigils. There was nothing wrong with the EDSA Revolution. It is the things that we did and did not do after EDSA that has been keeping us in the shadows. There was nothing wrong with taking to the streets to topple the governments of Estrada and Arroyo or the anti-pork barrel march. It is the things that we allowed to continue to happen after the march. It is our ningas-kugon and our lack of will to continue to do the work beyond our indignation rallies.

Protests have a role to play in our fight for every cause and they take many forms. The noise we make has a role to play in our collective awakening. There was a Stop Cebu Flyovers Movement protest before the moratorium on flyovers. There were anti-GMO protests before the Philippine Supreme Court banned GMO field trials.

When our children rise up and question what is happening around them, we do not stop them—because we can’t. The world asks of us to be wise enough to lead them and show them that we are doing something. When they have been awakened, they can never go back to sleep. Because that is our nature as human beings. We don’t want to be the generation that didn’t do anything while nature was being abused and the planet was on the brink of collapse, while technology trumped humanity and we had forgotten what it means to be a human being, while we had forgotten where we came from and why we exist—or did we ever find out?

For my sister, who is my blood sister and soul sister, who celebrated her birthday yesterday, I pray that you may always have peace in your heart, no matter the chaos or disorder around you. That you may always feel love, no matter what. That you may always breathe life, no matter what.

Happy Birthday, Pepang! 🙂 I love you.

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